Along with LtN Board Chairman Greg Bice, and two of his Resolute Lacrosse staff members, we set off to explore Bogotá for 5 days. Our objective was to see if the communities we visited would accept LtN, be open to having our programs and what it would cost to get us off the ground.
International program development is no easy task. LtN has been in Panama for almost one year since we began our pilot programming, and we’ve had our fair share of hurdles - from conflicting partnerships and limited volunteer resources to site relocation for our Bocas practices. Although international development means having to accept some challenges, those challenges are usually the catalysts for incredibly beneficial growth. And that’s just what we’ve found in our Bocas community, with the help of a 10 year old.
Coming back after winter break, LtN had to find a new location for our Bocas practices, so I (Panama PD, Caroline) with the help of our volunteer, Shauna, searched high and low for a place that kids would know that’s also easily accessible to all kids who want to play. In the process of this literal scorching and sweaty bike search, Shauna and I decided to take a break and plop ourselves down by a basketball court in front of the beach to throw the lax ball around. As we were passing around, there were a couple of kids playing basketball on the court adjacent to us. Little did we know at this moment that a ton of kids live across the street and play there everyday. We thought, hey, this is a cool sport for some lacrosse, so we made it one.
Practices started out slow, but eventually more and more kids were running from across the street from their homes or leaving their soccer games on the other court to come and play with us. This is when 10 year old Laisha, became a part of the LtN family.
One afternoon, three girls were playing a game of tag on the court. Shauna and I began to talk to them and eventually asked if they wanted to play lacrosse with us. At first they were tentative, but it was Laisha who took onto the game fast. She was passing and catching in the matter of 5 minutes, helping explain the fundamentals to her two younger cousins, Karla and Reychell. From then on, she has been dominating the court!
Every practice she picks up a new skill or drill so quickly. It’s incredible to watch the progress Laisha has made in just a matter of two months. Not only has Laisha conquered the game through her skills; the lacrosse “court” has become a place where she shows great discipline. In the beginning of April we implemented a rule that if a player shows up late for practice, they have to run a lap before joining the team. Laisha showed up a couple minutes late and immediately knew what she had to do without us reminding her. She got on the line, ran a lap, went to the bag to pick up a stick and got in line for the drill. As a coach, it’s exciting to see your player embody a strong work ethic and put forth effort. What’s even more exciting is knowing that lacrosse practices are now a time where other players can observe Laisha’s work and follow by example.
Beginning this month, we’ve started handing out sticks for our players to take home at the end of the week. We decide on two players and have the team vote who they believe most deserves the stick. These players need to exemplify good sportsmanship (on and off the field), listen and be respectful during practice, and come to practice with a positive attitude. Not sure if this will come as a surprise to you at this point, but the team voted on Laisha to be our first player to receive her very own lacrosse stick.
Since receiving her own stick, Laisha has brought it to every practice with a huge smile on her face, ready to go. Seeing her run across the street for practice, stick in hand, fills me with joy because I can’t wait to see what new tricks she has up her sleeve for that day’s practice.
Hurdles in our path of program implementation brought LtN to Laisha. Laisha, in turn, has brought passion, learning, and high numbers of kids to our programs ever since. Coaching a player like Laisha is a true prize and I can’t wait to see where this game takes her. She has so much greatness ahead and has brought so much light to this program with her positivity and radiant demeanor. LtN’s international programs serve a variety of purposes; but perhaps above all, our practices give children like Laisha a platform to grow, to share her light, to push those around her forward, and to enjoy every second of the process. Thank you Laisha, we should call you LtN’s new Director of Program Development, but simply calling you our teammate is more rewarding.
LtN Panama Program Director
LtN Impact: Physical Limitations Can’t Limit Eybar
Bocas del Toro, Panama
Eybar arrived to the Bocas Community Center where we hold practices one afternoon in November with his brother. It was during a group trip, and I was sitting on the porch of the community center with Karen (one of our volunteers visiting with the group). Karen noticed Eybar eagerly watching everyone play pick up before practice, so she asked him if he was interested in playing. Eybar shook his head “no”.
I should probably mention before moving forward with my story that Eybar has physical limitations, but by no means do they limit him. Eybar uses a wheelchair.
Not being able to communicate in Spanish, Karen used creativity to express a powerful message to Eybar. She pulled up a video from youtube of wheelchair lacrosse and we asked if he would watch with us. Eybar began watching the video and his eyes lit up with excitement. He became so engrossed in the video that he leaned over to get closer to the screen and almost fell into Karen’s lap. Seeing the enormous smile on Eybar’s face almost brought tears to my eyes, I had never seen someone become so empowered by something.
After watching the video, we asked Eybar again if he wanted to play. This time he responded by immediately reaching for my stick. I put him in his wheelchair and took him out to the beach so he could experience the new game he just discovered.
We started out with everyone’s favorite drill, steal the bacon. At first, Eybar asked me if I would wheel him around. I gladly accepted his request and when his number was called, I would wheel him out to go after the ball. His determination was striking. I could not keep up. He was so fierce, constantly wanting to attack and go after the ball. After that drill my face hurt from smiling and laughing so hard. It was such a joy seeing Eybar having what seemed like the time of his life. It didn’t take long until he took the field on his own.
“After a water break, I asked if he wanted to play in the scrimmage. He replied that he wanted to sit out for a little. Only five minutes later came the most powerful moment I may have witnessed.”
After a water break, Eybar was watching the scrimmage from the sideline when I noticed his face overcome with this determined look. He slowly removed himself from his wheelchair and grabbed a stick from the bag. He was heading to the field. You could see it in his eyes, he was not stopping until he got to our 3x practice goal. When he arrived at the cage, he positioned himself in front of the net, declaring himself the designated goalie for the rest of practice. Every time someone came up with the ball he immediately shouted, demanding the ball in his stick. He would dive to save shots, eager to get the ball any point it was remotely close to him. This kid was a ninja.
After practice was over, I went to sit on the steps. Eybar came over with an orange and sat next to me asking if I would like to share with him. We sat on the steps for a couple minutes just talking and eating the orange, when suddenly I felt arms clench around my waist. He leaned closer to my ear and said, “gracias”. I struggled to hold back tears.
This is a moment I will hold on to for the rest of my life. There were many factors that led to Eybar’s discovery that day, from our determined and caring volunteers to our supportive players who now call themselves Eybar’s teammates. If not for Karen’s brilliant idea, Eybar may have never included himself in practice that day.
Watching Eybar transform from a discouraged kid to a fearless warrior on the field reminded me of what this program means and why it started. Sure, the sport itself is fun. But, it is so much more than that. I love getting to teach lacrosse in a community that has no prior knowledge of what the sport is. From my time here in Panama, I see examples of it every day. We use this sport to empower and motivate kids like Eybarto believe in themselves and build the confidence to try new things.
— Caroline Rath, LtN Panama Program Director
Chiquilistagua Practice, Nicaragua
Favorite Subject: Science
Efren started coming to practice at the start of Chiquilistagua’s 2017 school year. He loved passing around and jumping into our scrimmages, but quickly learned that he was required to complete an entire warm up with the team before participating. Upon this discovery, Efren developed a habit of coming late to practices in order to “miss” the warm ups but still get his lax on. When Coach David and Program Director Dan let Efren know he couldn’t compete if he did not warm up and complete their conditioning, Efren’s attendance dropped.
A few weeks of not playing, Efren made the decision that stepping up to do some things that he didn’t want to do was a task he was willing to take on if it meant returning to play alongside his classmates and friends. Now Efren is in 3rd year of lacrosse, attending weekly tutoring with LtN’s coaches. Last year, his team won the LtN Cup, bringing the trophy back to Chiquilistagua school thanks for Efren’s defense. When asked about his thoughts on lacrosse, Efren reflected:
“Lacrosse is a sport that is very physical and helps us stay in shape. I like all the drills and techniques we learn every practice, and the coaches help us to become better people through the charlas (LtN’s life-skills discussions).”
Efren overcoming his distaste for warm-ups and conditioning may seem like a small step forward for some of us more attuned with the youth sporting requirements in the U.S. However, many times students in Managua lack an incentive to rise above a daunting challenge to achieve a hirer goal. At LtN, our programs work to provide children with an incentive to learn (lacrosse) and our coaches serve as resources for students to accomplish their short and long term goals.
Player Spotlight: Anthony
Bocas Town Practice, Panama
Favorite Subject: Science
I first met Anthony during LtN’s second week here at the Bocas Community Center. From the get go, he was super interested in this new sport called lacrosse. After picking up the stick, Anthony started coming to every practice - falling in love with the sport as so many of us do.
But a few months in, Anthony stopped coming to LtN practices. I was concerned about him, I was confused why he was not attending, because I knew how much he loved playing.
One day, I saw Anthony on the street and asked him why he was not coming anymore. He replied saying it was too far away, but that he was really missing practice and wishes he could come back.
FYI: The beach we practice on is in the middle of Bocas town. While it’s a relatively central location, kids come from all over the island to attend. Lots of times, our practice is the only place for kids to play an organized sport – there’s mens’ pick-up games all over, but having a safe space for children to engage in sports and learning is rare.
I really hated the idea that Anthony would have to give that up because of distance. After hearing this, I told him I would pick him up before practice time. So I did. We walked together to practice the next week, and shortly after Anthony returned to our practices.
Now, Anthony is one of our best students. Not only is he invested in the sport, but when other kids are acting out or goofing off he is right there telling them to stop or helping me explain things.
He is a true captain, embodying the mission of LtN. I’m proud to say that through LtN, Anthony has found a space to demonstrate and develop these traits on a weekly basis. Anthony is a great demonstration of our initial programmatic success in Bocas, and I am so excited to watch him develop into an even better leader with practice.
— Caroline Rath, Panama Program Director
Roughriders 8th Grader, Brennan, has built himself an impressive resume. As a club lacrosse player with a passion for using sport for good, Brennan has taken sports philanthropy into his own hands from a young age.
LtN first heard from Brennan in the spring of 2018 when he requested to volunteer in our after-school programming with the Boys and Girls Club in Charlottesville. To summarize his experience, Brennan reflects:
“The women that I worked with [running LtN’s Charlottesville programs] were incredibly patient coaches, knowledgeable and professional as leaders of the volunteers. They showed me how to approach the very young students so that they could either fall for the sport of lacrosse in the same way that I have, or just have a fantastic time. I was given leadership opportunities to engage students, and frankly I got better with each chance that I was given.. I walked away from my experience a much better leader. I will 100% volunteer again this summer.”
While we were delighted to have Brennan as a volunteer who is enthusiastic and motivated about LtN’s mission, Brennan had more in mind. In the previous year, Brennan organized a lacrosse tournament to raise money and awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest. We were honored to receive word from Brennan after his volunteer experience in Charlottesville that he and his teammates decided to include Lacrosse the Nations in their 2018 Lacrosse My Heart event.
As a sport-for-development organization, we aim to be a catalyst for young leaders. By employing something that we all know and love - lacrosse - players, coaches, and fans can impact lives and create momentum for larger community involvement in philanthropy. We’re thrilled that LtN’s programs can stand alongside Lacrosse My Heart’s charity partners, but the true honor is promoting a cause that motivates youth to step up and lead others to action. In Brennan’s reflection of his event which took place this October, he stated:
“I am amazed at how much every guy stepped up to make a difference raising money for important organizations like Lacrosse the Nations and playing their hardest to make the crowd feel excited about the effort. It was a fantastic day.”
CJ first discovered LtN Costa Rica during a family vacation in Playa Potrero. From the moment he heard about LtN’s mission, he was ready to get involved. Since then, CJ has worked single-handedly throughout his spring season as an ambassador for our cause, raising awareness and funds for our programs. CJ topped off his spring efforts with a trip back to Playa Potrero to play lax with some old friends of LtN…
“It has been an exciting year working with LtN! I first learned about the organization while on vacation in Costa Rica with my family over a year ago. The philosophy of the program really hit home for me. I love lacrosse, so giving kids who are less fortunate than I am an opportunity to learn the game, plus enrich their lives academically, meant a lot.
“I spent my spring season reaching out to friends and family along with my club lacrosse coach to raise awareness and money to support Lacrosse the Nations. I was fortunate to raise over $1,100 for the organization. I then traveled to Costa Rica this past August to work with the kids involved in the local community center run by past LtN partner, Abriendo Mentes.
“The director of the program, Rachael, was amazing in helping set up the equipment and sending out announcements to the community that I would be there to play with the kids. I also worked with a man named Mario who heads up the computer classes at Abriendo Mentes. I had so much fun playing with the kids and also practicing my Spanish!
“Even though there was a language barrier, the love of the game made communicating easy. It was an incredible experience which I hope to participate in again next summer. I also want to raise my goal in future fundraising for such a great organization. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of LtN.”
My name is Will Cogan and I am a senior defenseman at Christopher Newport University. A few weeks ago, I was given the amazing opportunity to travel to Bocas del Toro, Panama to work with kids and spread the game that I love. I did this with teammates and members of the Washington & Lee men’s and women’s lacrosse team.
This experience is something that I will never forget. In my 15 years of playing lacrosse, this was by far the most rewarding, humbling, and unforgettable experience I have had in the game of lacrosse. Each day we woke up with the opportunity to positively impact high schoolers and young kids with the game that we love so much. Knowing that every day would give us an opportunity to teach a game that these kids have never seen before seemed challenging at first, but once we had the stick in our hands it was just like any other day for us. We got to teach kids how to catch, throw, scoop ground balls, and even fun games like hungry hungry hippo. Whether it was at the local high school or at the Give & Surf community center on the beach it was a week filled with smiles, laughs, and a whole lot of fun.
I want to express how thankful I am of the Lacrosse the Nations staff (Caroline and Brooke) and the Give & Surf staff (Drew and Taylor) for giving us such an amazing experience. Drew and Taylor taught us so much about the communities of Bocas and Bastimentos, and as took us on many adventures that I will never forget. Brooke and Caroline showed us that you do not need to speak the same language in order to connect with young kids and teach the game that we love.
I hope that LtN can continue to grow their programs in Bocas del Toro, and that it remains a place to go for years to come. I STRONGLY encourage any lacrosse player, coach, or fan to go on a trip with Lacrosse the Nations, to experience what its like to give back to a sport that has given us so much. Thank you LtN and Give & Surf.
- Will Cogan
CNU Mens Lacrosse '19
September 27, 2017… My first day of lacrosse.
Yes, you read the year correctly. I was 25 years old. My friends grew up playing lacrosse, but lacrosse was during track season, and my parents were not having it. After high school I went to the military for 6 years. When I got out I had the choice to stay with track which I had been my life, or play “the fastest sport on two feet”. I wanted to put that theory to the test…
September 27, the team president gave me his stick, a ball, and directed me to go play wall ball… first lesson I learned in lacrosse? Never take one ball to play wall ball. Needless to say the first round of wall ball was short.. I don’t think I caught the ball once that whole day. Less than 6 months later, I was starting on the wing, for The University of Miami. Short stick defensive middie. only player on the team that finished the season without spending 1 second in the penalty box. No, it's not because I rode the bench.
There were 2 moments when I knew that: “lax is life”.
1: I was having an awful day.. went out side, threw the ball as hard as I could at the wall, kept stick extended in place, and ball came right back as if I was playing paddle ball. The sound the ball made when it smacked the back of my net had me hooked. The harder you throw the ball, the faster it comes back to you. There is no greater stress relief in sports than wall ball in lacrosse.
2: I was having problems with the GI bill paying for my school, someone broke my laptop and didn’t tell me, someone stole my phone and my wallet, someone rear ended my car making it non-drivable, and the army was not paying me for housing… hell was burning around me.. what did i I do? just played wall ball longer. 4 hours a day sometimes.. nothing better to do…. then i lost my stick, and the world stopped spinning. I had a panic attack. iPhone X: stolen, didn’t care. car: wrecked, didn’t care. Paychecks: weren’t coming, didn’t care. Laptop: broken, didn’t care. I could not even go have a beer with my friends because my ID was stolen, didn’t care…However, life without a stick, and no means to replace, it terrified me.
That was just 5 months after the day I started.
Today makes 10 months, not even a year, and I am in the process of relocating to Latin America in December to grow the game… lacrosse saved my life, set me free… through me, I am going to allow it to do the same for others.
(Good thing this wasn’t “first goal”, or I wouldn’t have been able to contribute.)
Lacrosse the Nations is starting up a new campaign this week. It's called "Your First Day of Lacrosse."
It's in honor of our approaching trip to Panama, and the children we will have the privilege of working with down there. This will be the FIRST time these kids will ever see the game of lacrosse. Some may absolutely hate it, some will love it. "Your First Day of Lacrosse" is a campaign that's aimed to honor the moments of discovery that await these kids. And to reconnect all of YOU - LtN's supporters, donors, and believers - to this first moment of discovery for you: the first time you experienced something that you knew you'd love for the remainder of your life.
When was the first time you ever saw a lacrosse stick?
Did you pick it up? Try and play?
Did you look on with admiration?
Did you sit there wondering what the heck those kids were using sticks to throw a ball around for?
No matter how familiar or how foreign the sport of lacrosse was to you, at one point in your life, on one day, it was something brand new and exciting - something that made you feel a certain way.
As we prepare to launch our pilot programs in Panama, I've started thinking a lot about what makes programs successful, what creates the best experience and provides the most benefit to those involved. I remembered back to when I was first introduced to the game of lacrosse, and how it made me feel to play on my very first day. It was tricky, it was cool, it was fun, and it was different. Within the first practice, I was able to pick up catching and throwing pretty easily, and I was pretty pumped as a little 5th grader showing off my skills to novice 6th and 7th graders. Lacrosse made me feel like no other sport had so far. As a young girl it gave me confidence and put a smile on my face.
As I grew, so did my love for it - it became a way to socialize, to compete, to learn from and with others. It inevitably made me a better person, got me to an incredible college (Go 'Ders), and introduced me to people who have changed my life in every sense of the word. Lacrosse allowed me to travel to Nicaragua, where I learned more about myself in 13 months than I had thus far in my 22 years. During my time there I shared my every-day life with absolute strangers - incredible kids, families, and role models (@Normdaddy) that I would NEVER have met otherwise. I can trace so many of my attributes, so many of my favorite memories, so many of the most challenging but rewarding moments of my life back to my first day of lacrosse.
"Your First Day of Lacrosse" is a campaign we are running over our social media from now until the end of our summer trips to Panama. We will be sharing stories of our players, staff members, volunteers, and friends on what they remember about their first day of lacrosse. We hope that you all will be able to use these stories to jog your own memory of your first days. Share these memories us. Post it and tag us, recount it with your friends, respond to this blog post, whatever you'd like! Remember your first day of lacrosse with admiration, and be sure to reflect on where you have come since that day. We will be asking our new kiddos in Panama these same questions after their first day of lacrosse, in hopes that this will be a time that they look back on one day with the same nostalgia and gratitude that we do.
It's always inspiring to see players take initiative to support something they care about. This year, we were honored to hear that LtN advocates and Amped lacrosse players Bray, Ben, Jasper, Jack and Drew wanted to organize an event to benefit LtN's mission from their own home town.
Amped lacrosse has been an incredible supporter of and contributor to the impact LtN's programs have from dedicating their club seasons, to donating their time to volunteer at our international sites. But this year, Bray, Ben, Jasper, Jack and Drew wanted to take their role in sport philanthropy to the next level. Last month, these guys organized a youth lacrosse camp in Norfolk, VA - not only to share their love and knowledge of the game with youth in their community, but also to benefit young players they have come to know in our Nicaraguan communities. By organizing, promoting, and coaching the camp, these players have done more than help grow the game - they have united the lacrosse communities countries apart.
Amped player, Bray, reflected on his experience the day of the camp:
This clinic was something that I was lucky and grateful to be a part of, and it was a blast running it. The clinic benefited two things crucial to lacrosse and the lacrosse community. It helped spread the game to those who haven’t been around it and it benefited a large nonprofit organization that has a international impact on less fortunate people in the lacrosse community.
This clinic was a great learning experience for me. It helped me learn some of the great things that Lacrosse the Nations does, along with the logistics of putting together an large event. From insurance, to public relations, the clinic was a long, thought-out process that I couldn’t have put together without the help, teaching, and advising of those around me. In the end, it worked out well. We raised over $500 for Lacrosse the Nations and raised awareness for what Lacrosse the Nations does all over Hampton Roads. It was truly an honor to be able to run this clinic.
- Bray Hollowell
Bray not only took the lead on the behind-the scenes tasks of the clinic, but he pulled together other local guys not playing for Amped yet committed to the cause of Lacrosse the Nations that want to help them with the clinic. He even recruited Amped alumni players to join in. It's amazing how quickly the lacrosse community in Norfolk acme to together in support of the boys' efforts. It resulted in an evening full of fun, laughter and the joining of some incredible causes.
Here at LtN, we live and breath by our supporters. The passion behind the work we do is amplified by those who believe in our mission. We've witnessed the power you all have to make a change in others' lives through your belief in sport as a vehicle to do good. As witnesses to this power, we created Team LtN - a community made up of people across the country; not connected by lacrosse, but by the feeling they get when they see a kid discover their favorite sport for the first time, by their excitement in building meaningful relationships, by their understanding that there is more out there to give then to get.
Team LtN members are ambassadors for our cause, raising awareness and funds for Lacrosse the Nations' programs. Often, raising funds for a cause can seem daunting or a chore-like. At Lacrosse the Nations, we equip our ambassadors to fundraise with activities they know and love. Check out these ideas below and see how fun it can be to spread LtN's mission as a part of Team LtN:
1. Youth Lacrosse Camp
If your team is in high school or college, put your skills to use and coordinate a youth lacrosse camp! Local elementary or middle school children often look up to older athletes and would be thrilled to spend the day learning new tricks. Hosting a youth camp can both raise money and educate children about sports, exercise, and healthy expression.
2. Food Truck Festival
We’re sure many of your team’s supporters show up to your games hungry. Is there a big tournament coming up? Reach out to food trucks in your area to attend. You can charge entrance into the festival, and the trucks can still charge their normal prices inside. Pro tip: find food trucks of all cuisines so everyone can find something to snack on!
For this fundraiser, you’ll need to rent a radar gun (or ask someone to donate one for the day). Measure how fast each of your participants can throw a lacrosse ball, and give a prize to the winner! You can charge a small fee per attempt (try $5). You’ll be amazed at how competitive participants will get!
4. Parents vs. Kids Match
Set up a night where your team’s parents play against your team. A bit of family friendly competition is totally fine when it’s for a great cause! Charge for entry to the game as well as snacks throughout the game. Provide a trophy for the winning team and host the event annually. You’ll easily get some lax dads willing to compete against their kids!
Ready to host your own fundraiser? Lacrosse the Nations uses an online platform that allows you to sell tickets while managing and tracking donations. You can simply shoot us an email, and we will help you set everything up! However, if you're a do-it-yourselfer, you could use a number of nonprofit registration platforms.
Spread the Word: As an advocate for our mission, use your power to tell others about Lacrosse the Nations. Make sure to be following our social media platforms (@laxthenations) and use the hashtag #TeamLtN!
To go the extra mile, garner support for Lacrosse the Nations through a one-to-one text messaging tool! Texting your supporters is a great way to build awareness, get feedback, and notify others about your upcoming events. Direct and genuine communication is the best way to create impact for LtN.
No matter what you do as a member of Team LtN, you are spreading the power of sport in ways we never could without you. When you are passionate about a mission, as we are with ours, that passion permeates in incredible ways.
Today is National Higher Education Day! This day is used as a platform to encourage young students to pursue higher education, and to promote ways to tackle the challenges of receiving a degree. Here at LtN, promoting education is our priority, as the majority of the communities we work with struggle to access quality education from a young age.
In Nicaragua, the concept of higher education is almost mystical. UNICEF reports that 29% of males, and 30.5% of females in Nicaragua never even attend primary school (elementary through 6th grade). The numbers only get worse as children age - with a staggering 65% of boys and 58% of girls not continuing on to secondary school (6th grade through high school).
Higher education is not a reality for many, as most cannot afford costs and Nicaraguan universities that are free are extremely competitive, offering limited spots. These challenges are compounded by the pressure boys receive to work instead of attending school so that they can support their families, and the assumption that girls will stay at home to watch younger siblings and take care of the house. Moreover, many young girls struggle to stay in school due to teen pregnancy - Nicaragua has highest rate of teenage births in Latin America and the highest in the world outside of Africa.
Student who participate in our lacrosse programs are some of the few who receive encouragement to pursue higher eduction. LtN's programs use sport as a motivator for kids to attend and to do well in school. Through LtN's scholarship program, students' are eligible to receive school supplies and uniforms. This program relieves pressure on families to tackle the costs of sending their kids to school.
Through our LtN Scholar program, those who display exemplary behavior, are leaders on the field, and work at their studies have the opportunity to become an LtN Scholar. As an LtN Scholar, students work for LtN as a coach so that they can still support their families while attending university classes to continue their education. This way, our scholars are able to take the time to complete their degree, move out of the lacrosse world into a professional career, and become a resource and a role model within their communities.
We would like to take this day to acknowledge our incredible LtN Scholars in Nicaragua and all of the hard work and dedication they put in, not only to developing young lives through our programs, but taking initiative to better their own situations and pursue their full potential. Join us in celebrating our amazing scholars on this year's National Higher Education Day:
Short-term Program Director (PD), Lou Lillelund, began his journey in Nicaragua on March 1st. Lou is from Copenhagen, Denmark and a member of the Danish National Team. Lou's decision to take a gap year after finishing his secondary education with the International-Baccalaureate Diploma Program is what brought him to Lacrosse the Nations in Nicaragua! Lou has done an incredible job jumping head in to LtN’s programs, helping at both practices and at LtN tutoring sessions. From day one, Lou fit right into the family. This week, we asked Lou to reflect on his first month down in programs. Here’s what he had to say:
“After slightly over a month of volunteering for LtN in Nicaragua. Saying that my time here has been an experience I will never forget would be an understatement. As there are five different lacrosse programs in total: two co-ed practices (advanced and beginner) at each of our two schools, plus a girls’ practice at Chiquilistagua (aka Chiqui), I get to play and help out with actual lacrosse around 20-25 hours a week. In addition to lacrosse practices, every Monday I have the privilege of tutoring some of the players at Chiqui before afternoon practice. Each program has its own unique charm as the kids and coaches that I work with at each program vary.
“The advanced practices are lots of fun – helping Coach Maycol at Club Hope and Coach Juan at Chiqui and playing fast-paced lacrosse with the kids. The beginner practices are equally as enjoyable, whether I am helping at the Club with Norman coach the kids (who seem to literally never run out of energy) or I am with my other PDs Susan, Andrew, and Matt helping Coach David teach our kids at Chiqui.
“I even get to help out Coach Darien along with PDs Susan and Jackie in LtN’s girls’ program. Seeing the smiles on Naomi’s, Allison’s, and the rest of the girls faces when they catch a ball or score a goal is an incredibly rewarding experience. Overall, I’m grateful to say that I’ve already made priceless relationships with both the coaches and players, of which I am truly excited to see develop throughout these subsequent months.”
Happy International Women’s Day 2018 from our deportistas (female athletes) in Nicaragua!
Last International Women’s Day, LtN had just started up its girls-only program down in Nicaragua - spurred by the addition of boys’ equipment to our co-ed practices, the presence of a female program director and strong female coach, Darien, along with a donation of women’s equipment from Princeton Lacrosse.
Our girls-only program started out with former program director, Brooke Wilson, spending time at Chiquilistagua public school during recess. After teaching English class in the school, Brooke would bring out the donated women’s equipment to pass around with anyone who showed interest. In our first blog post about starting the program, Brooke reflected on her efforts.
And show interest they did! Looking back a year from today, we have so many moments to attribute the establishment of the current girls’ program to…
Thanks to three groups of amazing female players coming down this past summer (shout out to Richmond Women’s Lacrosse, Code Lacrosse, and CNU Women’s Lacrosse), we were able to recruit new players for the program, give one-on-one instruction in a practice setting, and show the girls how fun lacrosse can be. The ability of the U.S. women’s players from our summer groups to connect with, teach, and serve as role models for our young girls became the catalyst for the program’s launch.
Additionally, at the close of last summer, Darien, along with our other Nicaraguan coaches, received comprehensive coaching training from STICK WITH IT! Lacrosse, who visited LtN’s sites in early September. Thanks to Stick With It’s training program, Coach Darien was equipped with more drills, expanded leadership skills, and heightened confidence as she has stepped up into the head coaching role.
This year, the program now runs full force! Instead of impromptu recess sessions, the girls formally practice three times a week, with an hour-long practice before school on Monday mornings. With 28 girls attending each week, Darien leads practices with Program Director, Susan Hyman as her assistant. LtN’s girls-only program not only provides these young ladies with their own space to play, learn, and develop life skills; it will also, hopefully, begin to provide them with sessions from a guest speaker this season!
Peace Corps member and former lacrosse player, Brynn Miller, is looking to feature Peace Corps’ curriculum focusing on female empowerment within Nicaragua’s machismo culture. Brynn approached LtN when looking for a platform to introduce her curriculum, expressing that a sport-focused environment is an ideal space to hold discussions concerning self-confidence and positive relationships with others. The aim will be to incorporate this curriculum into Coach Darien’s training, in order for these discussions to continue in our practices for years to come.
As you can see, LtN has a lot to be celebrating on this International Women’s Day! The addition of our girls-only programming has expanded LtN’s reach and continues to spread the impact sport is having on our youth.
Dear LtN Community,
As 2017 came to a close, LtN staff and the Board of Directors took some time to evaluate LtN’s presence and impact at each of our sites. After some long and hard discussions, we have decided to reduce programming at our site in Playa Potrero, Costa Rica. This was an extremely tough decision to come to; however, considering a number of factors limiting LtN’s growth in Potrero at this time, along with our current resources, it was one that had to be made.
LtN has provided children in Playa Potrero with opportunities to engage in positive and organized extracurricular outlets since 2012. Members of the Potrero community, partners in Costa Rica programming, and supporters of our efforts in Costa Rica will forever remain a part of the LtN family. While our on-site programming will be limited, LtN is committed to our students-athletes in Potrero. We will continue providing scholarships in Potrero through our LtN scholars program, and hope that in the future we can return with more resources and ways to support the LtN Costa Rica community. Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or concerns.
Thank you for your continuous support,
Atlanta Blaze players Adam Ghitelman and Scott Ratliff took their first trip to Nicaragua in January of 2017. From sharing things they knew like that back of their hand - coaching new concepts and playing lacrosse with our LtN student athletes - to diving head in to things they didn't - Nicaraguan language, food, culture, and our style of lax - it was incredible to see the impressions they left on our kids. These impressions were mutual it seems, as they returned this December for another dose of Nica lacrosse, getting to see many familiar faces and meet new ones along the way. LtN players and programming in Nicaragua have developed significantly since these two's last visit, in part because of the amazing guests who come to share their experience like Adam and Scott. After their trip, goalie, Adam reflected on his time in LtN programs:
"It was wonderful to return for our second visit to Nicaragua to work with Lacrosse the Nations. Our first visit developed such a sense of attachment and love for the positives that the program created, we couldn't wait to return for our second time. We were so excited to see a number of familiar faces, all of whom looked like that they had improved both as lacrosse players and personally. The players had all improved their individual games, and the chemistry and teamwork of the program continues to blossom. The passes are sharper, the stick skills are impressive, and overall IQ is through the roof. The kids all play together for a common goal and the commitment to the team is tremendous.
It was really great to see the numbers increase. Another great characteristic of the program is to see players moving up into leadership roles as coaches and coach assistants. Those players who continue to behave and work to become better people have shown tremendous development and leadership on and off the field."
It is incredible to be able to work with others who witness and share in our mission. Utilizing the power of sport, perhaps seemingly simple, continues to be an avenue to bridge connections and share in all the benefits of play. Thank you, Adam and Scott, for your time and we hope to see you down in Nicaragua for many years to come!
LtN HQ Welcomes New Staff Member!
We are beyond excited to announce the growth our LtN staff with the addition of our very own Communications and Development Director, Brooke Wilson! Brooke joined our U.S. based staff at the start of January. She brings all the right kind of knowledge, fresh out of her year volunteering as a program director for LtN in Nicaragua. While in Central America, Brooke handled on-site communications for LtN and started the first girls-only program in Nica. It is here that Brooke fell in love with LtN’s mission and community.
Brooke hails from Frederick, Maryland, where she first started playing and later coaching lacrosse. Brooke earned her B.A. in Healthcare Studies from the University of Richmond while playing for the women’s varsity team. Brooke’s passion for the spread of lacrosse and the development of LtN programming and communities is unparalleled. She will be taking over all things communications-related along with helping develop stronger and more expansive partnerships for the organization. When asked about her new position, Brooke commented, “I am so excited to be able to continue working with LtN in such a new and dynamic role. From my time volunteering for the organization abroad I have come to know the passion and dedication that each member of the LtN staff brings to their work each and every day. It’s an honor to be able to continue working for the cause and contribute to the growth of LtN.”
We are so excited to have Brooke on board and cannot wait to see all that she accomplishes. Welcome to the LtN family, Brooke!
Lacrosse the Nations at the University of Virginia started off strong this past August with the executive board recruiting over 15 new members to join the club. Our efforts for the semester focused on balancing between fundraising for the annual LtN Cup and youth volunteering efforts, namely the recurring six-week long lacrosse program held at the Boys and Girls Club of Charlottesville on Cherry Avenue. Because of the success of the Cherry Avenue program in past years, and with the new influx of volunteer members, a new program was extended to the Boys and Girls Club at Jouett Middle School through outreach with their program director. From the first week of October to the week before Thanksgiving, around four to five volunteers traveled to each Boys and Girls Club every week - Cherry Avenue on Tuesdays, Jouett on Fridays. For a time frame about an hour and a half, our volunteer coaches focused on getting to know the kids that frequently attended the program, while teaching them basic lacrosse skills, ultimately providing a new sport-related platform that allowed them to build their individual characters. Our Club at UVA plans to repeat this same six-week program in the spring of 2018, at both Boys and Girls Clubs, with hopes of adding multiple pop-up clinics during the spring that would be open to all Charlottesville youth community members.
In volunteering at the Clubs, we also realized that the equipment the Clubs had on hand were in pretty rough shape - some sticks had broken heads, others had ancient mesh. Lacrosse the Nations has generously offered to help with providing new sticks to replace these old and worn-down sticks that the Boys and Girls Club currently has in supply.
Fundraising for the LtN Cup within our Club at UVA was done primarily through individual efforts - and proved to be an amazingly successful endeavor. Of the over $1300 raised, the majority of what was raised came from individual members’ outreach to family, friends, and members of the lacrosse community. In addition to these individual efforts, a lump amount of $500 was also contributed through older funds raised from a 5k race and several student restaurant nights hosted by LtN at UVA. We hope to expand our fundraising to involve the club men and women’s lacrosse teams at UVA, and even local high school teams, in order to further solidify the Charlottesville lacrosse community.
Future plans for our Club, other than continuing our current volunteering and fundraising efforts, also include promotional and educational events to not only promote our organization, but to also educate UVA students on how to involve themselves in international service in an effective and worthwhile manner. Whether this is accomplished through an open seminar, guest speakers, or a university-wide presentation, we hope that our club can prove to not only be a fundamental piece of the international Lacrosse the Nations presence, but also a model for other college organizations with a focus on local and international service.
by Annie Cory
It is hard to encapsulate the numerous experiences I had working with Lacrosse the Nations in Charlottesville, VA. Hopefully, I will be able to give you just a glimpse of what it was like to watch the kids grow, learn and get better at the sport I love.
To preface my summer as the LtN intern in Charlottesville, I would like to share a little bit about myself. I am a rising sophomore at Princeton University where I am a member of the Women’s Lacrosse Team. I grew up in and went to high school in Charlottesville and have been involved with LtN for over 5 years. My involvement and commitment to LtN has taken many forms: fundraising, organizing 4v4 tournaments, sponsoring a team in the LtN Cup, running gear drives, and even travelling on a service trip to LtN in Nicaragua. Most recently, I have been serving LtN as their summer intern, working alongside Natalie Wood, the Program Director in Charlottesville and of course, Javier (LtN's Executive Director). During my first year at college I was constantly thinking of ways to continue my support of LtN and its mission. At every opportunity, as new gear shipments came flowing into our locker room, I encouraged my teammates to donate their “gently-used” equipment to LtN and I rounded up goggles, cleats, goalie pads, and sticks. So, when contemplating what I was going to do this summer, LtN was always on my mind. One morning, while sitting at my desk checking email, I received notification of an endowed fellowship sponsored by the University’s PACE Center for Civic Service. The fellowship, a design-your-own internship in conjunction with an organization/mentor, became immediately synonymous with Lacrosse the Nations for me. I think I called my mom first, and then instantly called Javier. In two short days, I was interviewing for the fellowship, and only a few short weeks later, I had been accepted as a John C. Bogle ‘51 Fellow for the summer. And this is what brought me back to Charlottesville to enrich my service to LtN and help to ensure the future success of the domestic programs that LtN has been fostering ever since my initial involvement.
This summer in Charlottesville has not always been smooth sailing, but once we worked out some of the kinks, we saw great improvement. The enthusiasm and engagement that resulted from a more structured curriculum and more directed implementation of life lessons only enriched the experience of every player and made their progress that much more perceptible to our coaching staff.
It was a rewarding experience to see growth in the players that we worked with this summer. We got to see them progress from catching their first pass, to scoring their first goal, to playing successful defense and beyond. To see someone else excel at a sport that has brought me so much success is transformative and heart warming. For me, though, an even more rewarding experience was to watch how the players’ demeanor changed throughout our 6 weeks of lacrosse practices. At the beginning, some players lacked focus or enthusiasm and were easily frustrated by the difficulty of mastering fundamental lacrosse skills. By the end, every player demonstrated enthusiasm, willpower and determination; these qualities quickly translated to success on the lacrosse field. This was obvious to the coaches and I think it was obvious to the other players as well. It was so exciting to see the scrimmages progress from a scrum of players all going after the same ground-ball to a more organized offense with kids getting open off cuts, calling for the ball, and everyone marking up on defense.
Overall, the combination of progress in attitude and progress on the lacrosse field made for an overwhelmingly successful summer. Implementing a full six week organized practice scheme, with life lessons and lacrosse drills included, helped to bring structure and success to the players and coaches. We are extremely excited to see the continued success of the Charlottesville programs as a number of UVA students carry out the life lessons and practice plans in the fall and we hope to see similar success at LtN programs in other parts of the US.